Starring Fiona Dourif, Brad Dourif, Jennifer Tilly, Alex Vincent
Directed by Don Mancini
Picking up where Curse of Chucky left off, Don Mancini’s latest addition to the Child’s Play franchise sees wheelchair-bound Nica (Fiona Dourif) now confined to a psychiatric institute. Suspected of being the perpetrator of Chucky’s killing spree in Curse, it seems Nica may be coming round to that line of thinking also – questioning whether a walking, talking killer doll is something that could even feasibly exist.
Unfortunately for her, and the other residents and staff of this institution, Chucky does indeed exist… along with another series favourite, Tiffany (Tilly) – and they’re determined to get their mitts on Nica.
Those who caught the post-credits addendum in Curse of Chucky should also expect another returning character: Andy Barclay (Vincent). Since his ruthless response to Chucky’s arrival in the aforementioned sequence, he now has the still-living severed head of that particular Good Guy stored away in his home – popping it out on occasion to torture and mutilate it.
But without giving too much away, rest assured that Charles Lee Ray and his kill-happy companion have different plans this time around… and when a Good Guy doll is randomly delivered to Nica’s institute, the blood begins to flow.
An enjoyable entry in a franchise that appeared to be losing its footing before the arrival of the darker-toned Curse, Cult of Chucky delivers not only on the gory mayhem, but on the narrative front, too. Both Dourifs are at the top of their game once again, Brad having – as ever – not missed a beat when it comes to voicing everyone’s favourite psychotic doll. For the first half of the film, both Fiona and Mancini do a fine job playing the psychological game with Nica. Could this be a Child’s Play film without a bona fide Chucky appearance?
Of course not – but it’s still a game worth playing, as is presented here. Anyone could guess that Chucky is indeed going to show up… but few will accurately guess (without having encountered spoilers beforehand) the true nature of Chuck and Tiff’s methods this time around. It’s a fun reveal that lets Dourif cut loose once more, and adds a playful spark to some otherwise grim proceedings.
Which leads us on to the kills, which are by no means a disappointment. Impressive practical effects abound throughout a series of gruesome slayings, and an adherence to physical puppetry for Chucky’s exploits is as endearing as ever. Mancini is having loads of fun here, and it shows.
Some viewers may have problems with the overall direction of the story, however, and when the finale swings around it’s quite easy to hold a gut feeling of worry for the franchise. Mancini feels only a hair’s breadth away from writing himself into a corner here – one that could prove either impossible, or absurd-by-necessity, to get out of cleanly. That’s if the throwaway explanation of his rule changes isn’t absurd enough – something only the most forgiving Chucky fans are likely to let slide without a contentious groan.
But then again, this is now a series based on the use of Voodoo for Dummies to transfer human souls into a doll so, as ever, it’s completely subjective as to what you let slide at this point.
Less forgivable is the almost total wastage of Andy Barclay, though. Arriving on the scene with the gravitas of an avenging angel, he’s very quickly rendered completely ineffective despite instigating one of the film’s best twists. It’s almost criminal, in fact, to have levied such promise with his Curse appearance only to lend him all the impact of a silent fart on a windy day in what should be his grand return.
With another post-credits secret to be found, it’s almost certain that an additional follow-up will continue this new canon. Here’s hoping Mancini can whip all of his new ideas into shape – and allow all of his characters the room they deserve – when that one rolls around. The ball certainly hasn’t been dropped, but Mancini is going to have to work hard to keep it in the air.
For now, though, Cult of Chucky remains a hell of a lot of fun. Solid performances all round (Tilly sparkles once again, even with limited screen time), a little bit of mind-bending, and the Chuckster at his deliriously psychotic best all make for another good run for the Good Guys.
Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 152 – Cloverfield Paradox & The Ritual
Last week Netflix shocked the world by not only releasing a new trailer for Cloverfield Paradox during the Superbowl, but announcing the film would be available to stream right after the game. In a move no one saw coming, Netflix shook the film industry to it’s very core. A few days later, Netflix quietly released horror festival darling: The Ritual.
Hold on to your Higgs Boson, because this week we’ve got a double header for ya, and we’re not talking about that “world’s largest gummy worm” in your mom’s nightstand. Why was one film marketed during the biggest sporting event of the year, and why was one quietly snuck in like a pinky in your pooper? Tune in a find out!
Meet me at the waterfront after the social for the Who Goes There Podcast episode 152!
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The Housemaid Review – Love Makes the Ghost Grow Stronger
Written and directed by Derek Nguyen
Vietnamese horror films are something of a rarity due largely to pressure from the country’s law enforcement agencies that have warned filmmakers to steer clear of the genre in recent years. The country’s exposure to the industry is limited, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a handful of filmmakers out there that are passionate and determined to get their art out into the world. IFC Midnight has stepped up to the plate to shepherd writer/director Derek Nguyen’s period ghost thriller The Housemaid in hopes of getting it in front of American horror fans.
Aside from a few moments that delve into soap opera territory, Nguyen’s film is full of well-crafted scares and some surprisingly memorable scenes that sneak up at just the right times. For history buffs there’s also a lot of material to sink your teeth into dealing with French Colonial rule and mistreatment of the Vietnamese during the 1950’s. Abuse that, if you’re not careful, could lead to a vengeful spirit seeking atonement.
Desperate and exhausted after walking for miles, an orphaned woman named Linh (Kate) seeks refuge and employment as a housemaid at a large rubber plantation in 1953 French Indochina. Once hired, she learns of the dark history surrounding the property and how her mere presence has awakened an accursed spirit that wanders the surrounding woods and dark corners of the estate. Injured in battle, French officer Sebastien Laurent (Richaud) returns to preside over the manor and, unexpectedly, begins a dangerous love affair with Linh that stirs up an even darker evil.
Told in flashbacks, the abuse of workers reveals a long history of mistreatment that enshrouds the surrounding land in darkness and despair, providing ripe ground for a sinister spirit that continues to grow stronger. Once it’s revealed that the ghost has a long history with Laurent before her death, the reasons she begins to kill become more and more obvious as the death toll piles up. Using the real life history of indentured servants during Colonial rule, The Housemaid becomes more than just a self-contained ghost story, adding a good deal of depth to a story that could have just centered around a love triangle among Laurent, Linh, and the specter of Laurent’s dead wife.
Powered by desire to avenge tortured workers of the past and the anger fueled by seeing her husband in the embrace of a peasant girl, the apparition is frightening and eerily beautiful as she stalks her victims. One scene in particular showing her wielding an axe is the most indelible image to take away from the film, and other moments like it are what make The Housemaid a standout. The twisted sense of romance found in a suffering spirit scorned in death is the heart of the story even if the romance between the two living lovers winds up having more screen time.
The melodrama and underwhelming love scenes between Linh and Laurent are the least effective part of The Housemaid, revealing some of Nguyen’s limitations in providing dialogue and character moments that make us connect with these two characters as much as we do when the ghost is lurking around the frame. What does help to save the story is a well kept secret revealing a connection with the housemaid and the apparition.
Honestly, if this was an American genre film, the limitations seen in The Housemaid might cause more criticism, but seeing an emerging artist and his team out of Vietnam turn out a solid product like this leads me to highlight the good and champion the effort in hopes of encouraging more filmmakers to carry the flag. Ironically, the film is set for a U.S. remake in the near future.
The Housemaid hits select theaters, VOD, and digital platforms TODAY, February 16th.
Using the real life history of indentured servants during Colonial rule, The Housemaid becomes more than just a self-contained ghost story, adding a good deal of depth to a story that could have just centered around a love triangle.
Scorched Earth Review – Gina Carano Making Motherf**kers Pay In The Apocalypse
Starring Gina Carano, John Hannah, Ryan Robbins
Written by Bobby Mort and Kevin Leeson
Directed by Peter Howitt
Let me preface this review by stating right off the bat that I’m a huge Gina Carano fan, and will pretty much accept her in any role that she’s put in (are you going to tell her no), regardless of the structure and plausibility behind it, and while that might make me a tad-bit biased in my opinions, just accept it as that and nothing more. Now that I’ve professed my cinematic devotion to the woman, let’s dive headlong into her latest film, Scorched Earth.
Directed by Peter Howitt, the backdrop is an apocalyptic world brought on by the imminent disaster known as global warming, and the air has become toxic to intake, generally leaving inhabitants yacking up blood and other viscous liquids after a prolonged exposure, unless you’re one of the privileged that possesses a filter lined with powdered silver. Filters of water and the precious metal are in high demand, and only true offenders in this world still drive automobiles, effectively speeding up the destruction of what’s left of the planet. Carano plays Atticus Gage, a seriously stoic and tough-as-nails bounty hunter who is responsible for taking these “criminals” down, and her travels lead her to a compound jam-packed with bounties that will have her collecting riches until the end of time…but aren’t we at the end of time already? Anyway, Gage’s main opponent here is a man by the name of Thomas Jackson (Robbins) – acting as the leader of sorts to these futuristic baddies, the situation of Gage just stepping in and taking him out becomes a bit complicated when…oh, I’m not going to pork this one up for you all – you’ve got to invest the time into it just as I did, and trust me when I tell you that the film is pretty entertaining to peep.
While Carano’s acting still needs some refining, let there be no ever-loving mistake that this woman knows how to beat the shit out of people, and for all intents and purposes this will be the thing that carries her through many a picture. There are much larger roles in the future for Gina, and she’ll more than likely take over as a very big player in the industry – hey, I’m a gambling man, and I’ve done pretty well with my powers of prognostication. With that being said, the thing that does hold this picture back is the plot itself- it’s a bit stale and not overly showy, and when I look for a villain to oppose the hero, I’m wanting someone with at least a shred of a magnetic iota, and I just couldn’t latch onto anything with Robbins’ performance – his character desperately needed an injection of “bad-assness” and it hurt in that particular instance.
In the end of it all, I’d recommend Scorched Earth to fans of directionless, slam-bang wasteland pics with a touch of unrestrained violence…plus, Gina Carano is in it, so you can’t go wrong. If you’re not a fan of any of the above, feel free to skate on along to another piece of barren territory.
Looking to get your butt kicked in the apocalypse with extreme prejudice? Drive on up, and allow me to introduce you to someone who’ll be more than happy to oblige.
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